First Published: The Call, Vol. 6, No. 3, January 24, 1977.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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All the big capitalists and their labor lieutenants have taken sides in the United Steel Workers (USW) election contest between Ed Sadlowski and Lloyd McBride. Sadlowski is the favorite of the liberals, while McBride has the backing of the old-guard labor bureaucrats, including retiring USW president I.W. Abel.
The October League and many rank-and-file steelworkers have called for a boycott of the Feb. 8 elections because workers have nothing to gain and everything to lose by pinning their hopes on either candidate.
The purpose of these elections is to determine which misleader and what policies will be used to keep the rank-and-file steel workers in line during this important contract year. The bosses and bureaucrats alike fear the growing revolutionary consciousness among the workers.
Control over this 1.4 million-member union brings much more than a $75,000-a-year salary and a plush office. The victor in this struggle will also gain an important post on the AFL-CIO executive board in time to choose George Meany’s successor. The sharp struggle between the conservative McBride and liberal Sadlowski in the USW is just a preliminary bout in the fight for leadership positions in the AFL-CIO.
In the past two weeks, accusations by the two candidates over who gets their money from whom have been exchanged.
But all this talk is only a trick to cover up the fact that both candidates are hard at work for the capitalists. Neither candidate has put forward any kind of fighting program for steel workers.
While Sadlowski and McBride hurl insults at each other and use union meetings to drum up support for their own slates, the majority of steel workers in this country are facing another wave of layoffs, deteriorating work conditions and more discriminatory attacks.
Rank-and-file demands to smash the no-strike agreement, win job security, and end discrimination and the racist Consent Decree have hardly been mentioned by McBride or Sadlowski. At most, these demands are used by the candidates as ammunition against each other in their battle for power.
Sadlowski poses the greatest danger in this campaign of phony promises because his appeal is aimed at the section of the work force most disgusted with the Abel leadership and most open to change.
Over the past decade, increasing numbers of steel workers have voiced opposition to Abel’s rule over the union. They have denounced his sellout to the steel bosses on the right to strike, his attacks on the demands of minority and women workers, and his concern for steel company profits while hundreds of thousands of workers have been thrown out of the mills.
It should be no surprise that, under the circumstances, the capitalists have brought out Sadlowski; wearing the label of “insurgent,” and waving the anti-Abel banner. It was under this same banner three years ago that Sadlowski won the leadership of District 31.
But Sadlowski’s disguise has been wearing thin, especially in District 31 where he has exposed himself in practice to be every bit as much a traitor to the workers and a servant of the steel bosses as Abel and McBride. He has linked up with the Abel machine in promoting the Consent Decree, attacking the rank and file, and sitting by while thousands of workers were laid off.
Helping Sadlowski to maintain his image as a militant and “progressive” is the revisionist Communist Party (CPUSA). The CP’s alliance with Sadlowski has produced a number of influential positions for the revisionists in the USW. In addition, the CP hopes to use this left-liberal coalition tactic to expand support for the Soviet Union and its phony “detente” propaganda. The revisionists had nothing but praise for Sadlowski’s Dec. 14 article in the Boston Globe, calling for “detente” and a “reordering of priorities” from defense spending to “labor-intensive uses.”
Sadlowski has also received an all-out endorsement from the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP). These opportunists have joined the revisionists in singing Sadlowski’s praises and preaching that his election will bring about “real change” in the union.
While the opportunists busy themselves painting Sadlowski as a “progressive,” Sadlowski has been busy, too, exposing exactly what his “progressive” and social-democratic ideas are really all about.
In a recent interview in the porno magazine, Penthouse, Sadlowski outlined his own anti-working class Utopia. “With technology,” he says, “the ultimate goal of organized labor” becomes the elimination of the work force itself. “We’ve reduced labor forces from 520,000 fifteen years ago to 400,000 today. Let’s reduce them to 100,000.”
In a period when steel workers are fighting for more jobs, Sadlowski calls for further cutbacks. Somehow, he claims, “society can absorb unemployment.” To the demand for safe working conditions, Sadlowski insists workers shouldn’t mine coal or work in the mills at all. He holds up as his ideal a society without any workers, just poets and doctors.
This Penthouse interview brought home to many workers the bankruptcy of liberalism and Sadlowski’s thoroughly anti-working class stand. All his Utopian talk is nothing more than a sermon to reform capitalism instead of overthrowing it.
The goal of the working class is not to reduce the work force but to strengthen it–to overthrow capitalism, bringing society itself under the control of the working class and building socialism. Sadlowski wants to eliminate workers, while the goal of workers is to eliminate the capitalists, the class of exploiters who grow rich off the labor of the masses of people.
The most important struggle in the steel union today is not between McBride and Sadlowski; it is between these labor bureaucrats and the rank and file.
The election boycott is one step on the road to organizing the vast majority of steel workers to oppose these servants of the capitalists and to fight for the interests of the workers themselves.
The fight for job security, the right to strike, and an end to discrimination and harassment must be linked to the struggle to drive out the bureaucrats and revolutionize the unions. The real interests of the working class stand with socialism, the only system that can provide permanent solutions to unemployment, exploitation and oppression.